Israel Resource Review 15th October, 2004


PA's Partner in the Jericho Casino is Sharon's buddy, Report Finds
Arnon Regular
Arab Affairs Correspondent, HaAretz

Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyad and the rating company Standard & Poor's have traced $658 million worth of the Palestinian Authority's assets and funds, according to a preliminary report issued recently.

Among the more interesting details are the PA's part in the Oasis casino in Jericho. The PA owns 23.08 percent of CAP, the company that owns the Jericho Casino. The Oasis is also partly owned by Jewish Austrian businessman Martin Schlaf - a close friend of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon - who also sits on the board of directors.

According to the report, CAP is registered in Lichtenstein and most of its owners are not known. Among its registered owners is an Austrian casino company, in which Schlaf is prominently involved. Schlaf last visited Sharon about two weeks ago in Hashikmim farm. The Prime Minister's Office director general, Dov Weisglass, represented CAP in Israel before entering his present office and his former law office still handles the company's business.

The Austrian Casino company received, according to the report, a franchise to operate the Jericho casino until 2028, with a 10-year tax exemption from the day it opened, and exclusive rights to operate other casinos in PA territories.

The report was issued by the Palestinian Investment Fund (PIF), the central body set up last August to concentrate and manage all the PA's assets and properties as part of the economic reforms in the PA. These funds and assets were managed during the Oslo agreements exclusively and secretly by Mohammed Rashid and his men. The PIF appointed Fayyad finance minister, Rashid as PA Chairman Yasser Arafat's representative and five other prominent private Palestinian businessmen, to take over and manage the assets in an orderly, open fashion.

The report, albeit partial, gives the Palestinian public for the first time some idea of the extent of funds run by Rashid and the economic system that the PA set up in the territories and abroad. In many cases, the information regarding the funds or assets is not complete and it is not yet clear which senior PA officials are managing them or own them.

The report indicates so far that there are 11 central PA investments in Palestinian companies totaling $372.9 million in local investments, like the Palestinian Telephone Company and the Palestinian Cellular Company. There are also investments in the Arab world, in cellular companies in Algiers, Tunis and Jordan, a Canadian drug company and others.

Another prominent company mentioned in the report is a Palestinian cement company, which according to the report is worth about $45 million and is owned entirely by the PA.

The company constitutes a monopoly in cement marketing and is estimated to hold 60 to 70 percent of the cement market. Its main suppliers are the Israeli Nesher company and the Jordanian cement company. The company's annual income is estimated at NIS 115 million.

This piece first appeared in Ha'aretz on March 2, 2003 and was posted on the HaAretz web site again on October 10th, 2004

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Nearly a Million Living in Poor Jewish Households in the US
Nathaniel Popper
Writer, Forward

[At a time when Jewish education in the US is increasing geared only to those who can afford it, this study speaks for itself, which belies the image of America's Jews in the "golden land" - db]

Close to 1 million people in American Jewish families live in low-income households, according to a new study that appears to be the most extensive national communal study ever done about economic vulnerability among American Jews.

The study released last month, which used data gathered during the 2001 National Jewish Population Study, looked at those Jews living in households that earn roughly less than 150% of the federal poverty rate, or $25,000 for a family of four. Some 15% of all persons in Jewish households were below the threshold, more than twice the rate of Jews living under the federal poverty rate. Researchers involved said they were surprised by the magnitude of the numbers.

The breakdown of the data along demographic lines turned up figures that refute many of the long-standing perceptions about the limits of Jewish economic hardship. As expected, the elderly were more likely than other age groups to fall under the low-income threshold, at 23%. Still, fully 12% of Jewish children were found to be living in low-income households. The image of New York as the epicenter of Jewish poverty was countered by a regional breakdown showing that the West had the highest rate of poor Jews, at 17% of all households, while the figure for both the Midwest and South was 12%.

A more detailed glimpse of regional trends is provided by another just-finished study from the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. Fully 22% of all Jewish households in greater Los Angeles were found to be earning less than $25,000 a year, according to the so-called Los Angeles Jewish Poverty White Paper, which has not yet been released publicly. The white paper found that 7% of all Jews in the area - the nation's second largest Jewish community after New York - live below the federal poverty line.

"This is a national Jewish problem," said William Rapfogel, the director of New York's Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, the only major Jewish organization dedicated entirely to the Jewish poor. "It requires a mobilization of the Jewish community on a national level, so we can begin to advocate on the issue of Jewish poverty, as we have advocated on the general issue of poverty."

The previous National Jewish Population Survey, released in 1990, contained a few figures on low-income households, but nothing that compares to the findings of the current study. The most representative figure from 1990 showed that 14% of entirely Jewish households were living on less than $27,500 in 2001 dollars.

The current national study, released by United Jewish Communities, follows up on a report from last year that indicated 5% of Jewish households were living under the poverty line in 2001, a figure that was contrasted with the 11.7% overall national poverty rate that year. The figure for Jewish poverty has now been revised upward to 7%, as the researchers believe they erred in assuming that anyone who did not answer questions about income was not under the poverty line; Twenty-seven percent did not answer these questions.

But the poverty questions were only asked of those respondents with "stronger Jewish connections," who represent 4.1 million of the estimated 6.7 million people living in Jewish households. The new low-income statistics apply to all the Jewish households considered in the 2001 study. For the population of 6.7 million - including some individuals who are not Jewish but live in households with Jewish members - the study found 15% under the low-income threshold, or nearly 1 million persons. The rate drops to 13% when looking only at the 5.2 million Jews in America.

In comparison to the poverty statistics, the low-income figures are significantly closer to the numbers for all American households, where 20% of the population was below the low-income threshold in 2001, according to a parallel study done by UJC at the time.

Many social scientists believe that studies looking at low income are a more accurate gauge of economic hardship than poverty statistics because the federal poverty rate has not been revised in decades and does not take into account regional variations in the cost of living, a particular problem when looking at the Jewish population, which is concentrated in expensive urban areas.

The UJC study treads many of the same lines as the "Report on Jewish Poverty" released by the UJA-Federation of New York last year. That study found that 20% of Jews in New York City were living below 150% of the poverty line.

The low-income threshold used by the national study was a rough measure because the respondents were only asked their income within $10,000 ranges. This forced the UJC researchers to use the income bracket closest to 150% of the federal poverty line for each household size. For families of one, three and five, this meant that the low-income line used was higher than 150% of the poverty line, while for other families it was lower.

A leading demographer who has examined Jewish poverty in several local surveys, Ira Sheskin of the University of Miami, said the national study might provide a slightly inflated picture of economic vulnerability because the analysis did not extract young students, who have no income but are frequently not economically vulnerable. Among Jews aged 18 to 34 in the study, 16% were found to be under the low-income threshold.

Social service professionals, on the other hand, cautioned that the numbers may provide an overly sunny portrait of the current situation, because the study is based on data collected from August 2000 to August 2001, before the recent economic downturn began. Since 2001, the national poverty rate has risen from 11.7% to 12.5%. The study also does not touch on the issue of the so-called near poor, who frequently face the greatest economic problems because they receive no government benefits, according to Rapfogel of the Jewish poverty council.

Even among the low-income population, though, the study points to a sizable unmet need for social services. Among the low-income population who felt they needed home health care, 85% received it, but when it came to employment help and financial assistance, generally only 55% to 60% of those who felt they needed help were receiving help.

The report also underscores the difficulty that some poor families face in accessing Jewish communal institutions. Fully 25% of poor Jews said that costs prevented them from joining a synagogue, and 17% said they were unable to keep kosher because of the cost.

The 1990 survey had found that poor Jews were less likely to be religiously observant than those with higher incomes, apparently due to the cost of participation. That was seen as a reversal of a traditional pattern in which wealthier Jews were considered less observant. The new findings appear likely to confirm the 1990 trend.

The study did confirm many well-known trends among the Jewish poor, including the high degree of economic trouble among immigrants from the former Soviet Union, 50% of whom are under the low-income threshold. The Los Angeles study found that in the Fairfax neighborhood, which is heavy with immigrants, fully 33% of Jews were under the poverty line.

But the national study also suggested that economic vulnerability spreads beyond these traditional groupings. Among married couples with children, 10% are under the low-income threshold, while the figure is 22% among single-parent households.

The higher concentration of poor Jews in the West has been a consistent finding in recent demographic studies according to Laurence Kotler-Berkowitz, the lead researcher on the UJC report; it now appears that 30% of poor Jews in America live in the West.

The Los Angeles White Paper drew its data from a 1997 Los Angeles demographic study and the 2001 national study. For social service providers in Los Angeles, there has been anecdotal evidence of rising economic need since the studies were done - including during the last months of economic recovery.

"While there is an economic change that has happened in the last months, I'm not sure how much has filtered down to the social level we're talking about," said Paul Castro, executive director of Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles. "Every month we see more clients than we see the month before."

The findings in Los Angeles have already spurred the organization of a conference in Tel Aviv this October to look at the issue of Jewish poverty in Israel and the United States.

This piece ran in the Forward Newspaper on October 15th, 2004

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Rav David Yosef Reveals His Father's Concern About the Oslo Accords:
His Fear of the Arming of the PLO
David Bedein

On October 14th, 2004, Rabbi David Yosef was interviewed on the program INYAN ACHER of Kol Yisrael at 8:30 a.m. and was asked what the prime concerns are of his father, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the leader of Shas, about the negotiations with the PLO.

Rav David Yosef stated very clearly that there was only one concern that he had, and that Rabbi Ovadia had expressed this concern in his last conversation with Rabin, and that was the arming of the PLO.

Rav David Yosef revealed for the first time that this indeed was the final conversation with Rabin, and that Rabin could not give him any assurances on this issue and that Rabin referred Rav Ovadia to Peres, where he also received no satisfactory assurances.

It is for that reason that Shas voted against Oslo II on October 5th, 1995, while Shas had abstained in the initial vote for the Oslo process in October 1993.

The most important aspect of the current Sharon plan involves Clause five, which mandates that Israel once again provide military training for the PLO army, together with Egypt, Jordan, the US and the UK, even though clause one of the Sharon plan states very clearly that there is no Palestinian peace partner.

Sharon's PR people have done everything possible to obfuscate the issue of their program to arm and train the PLO army.

However, Sharon's spokesman told me last week on the record that this training has once again begun - this time, with the Egyptians.

No assurances whatsover have been received that the PLO will not use its armed forces again to murder Jews.

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"The Rafiah Plan"
Separation without Withdrawal of Settlements
Aaron Bashani

PM Sharon has set up a demographic strawman regarding Gaza. The fact is that the 8,000 Jewish settlers do not "live amid 1.2 million Arabs". There are only 150,000 Arabs in the Rafiah area, the Strip's least populated district, where most of the Jewish residents are located by strategic design in "Gush Katif", along the border with Egypt.

If Sharon cannot achieve consensus to relocate all settlements, he can go for the "Rafiah Plan" that will achieve separation without the need for withdrawal.

With a spur southward through Israeli Morag and another through Arab Rafiah, Gush Katif can be linked to the western Negev, "for the duration", instead of northward through the rest of the Strip.

That area can be evacuated to allow over a million Arabs free movement in all but Rafiah.

Sharon can thus avoid the national trauma of uprooting 8,000 Jewish settlers for the sake of terror, not for peace. He would then finally muster the elusive approval of the Likud.

President Bush would support this plan given his statement that major settlement blocs be considered in any negotiations.

Sharon would encourage this by evacuating one or two Gaza settlements and moving their few hundred settlers into Gush Katif.

The next US administration, however, might realize that Sharon's withdrawal plans are little more than:

  • an abrogation of the security interest to stop dangerous traffic into and within Gaza,
  • a huge encouragement of Islamic terrorism,
  • a retreat from the US-Israeli commitment to eventual democracy in the Arab world, and
  • a sabotage of the road map so cherished by the U.S., EU, Russia and the UN.It is time for both right and left to reject Sharon's insincere maneuvers.

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Does the Current Yesha Council strategy Serve the Interests of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon?
David Bedein

There is only one thing that Arik Sharon is afraid of: direct pressure on the Knesset, which on October 25th will approve or disapprove a symbolic vote of confidence for the Sharon Plan, which mandates that Israel withdraws from Katif and the Northern Shomron, while providing renewed military training to the PLO armed forces.

Prime Minister Sharon counts on the people of Israel not to read his plan, which has little to do with "disengagement", and has everything to do with empowering the PLO and Egypt.

Prime Minister Sharon has adapted the precise strategy of his mentor, Yitzhak Rabin. It should be recalled that Sharon had left the Likud in 1975 to become Rabin's security advisor.

Rabin's 1993 strategy was to portray his opposition as a tiny minority of people who are locked in to their ideology and their real estate.

That "settler isolation" strategy was best articulated by PR expert Yekutiel Federman, former owner of the Dan Hotel Chain and former host and sponsor of Abie Nathan's Voice of Peace .

Federman elucidated this approach on the pages of the now defunct-Al HaMishmar . the former paper of Mapam, back in October 1993, and advised Rabin that he should "isolate the 3%" of the population who live in Yesha, and to attack them personally.

This led Rabin to suddenly referred to the 'settlers' as propellers that he promised to ignore.

And who will forget that Rabin hired Special Intelligenct Agent Avishai Raviv to portray himself as a "settler" and make every possible threat?

Surprisingly, throughout the eleven years of Oslo opposition, the Yesha Council has conformed to the Rabin/Federman strategy, to the letter.

On October 14th, 2004, in demonstrations organized throughout Israel, the Yesha Council once again provided a service to the Prime Minister of Israel by NOT encouraging pressure on the Knesset and by NOT stressing the all-important CLAUSE FIVE of the Sharon Plan, which mandates renewed military training for the PLO.

Instead, the Yesha Council strategy is based on one banal idea: That sentiments for the people in Katif will win the day.

Meanwhile, the Yesha Council demos made no mention of the threat of the Sharon Plan to Sderot and the western Negev, and the potential threat of the Sharon Plan to the coastal region of the Shomron

In other words, the Yesha Council forgot to stress that the Sharon Plan represents a threat to all of the people of Israel, and not only to Katif or the Shomron.

Moreover, to further neutralize any possible effective follow-u that could have come from these demos, the Yesha Council did not stress to the thousands of people who came out to demonstrate that decisions in Israel are made in the Knesset, and that is where the pressure must be placed.

Thousands of people flooding the Knesset with the demand that Israel not renew the military training of the PLO would affect members of the Knesset, especially if the loved ones of those who have been murdered or maimed by the PLO made that demand.

Thousands of people flooding the Knsset with the demand for the immediate arrest and/or execution of Dahlan would affect members of the Knesset, especially if Dahlan's victims made that demand.

Thousands of people flooding the Knesset with the demand for that Israel cease military cooperation with the Egyptian army would have an effect, especially if military experts made that demand.

Thousands of people flooding the Knesset with the demand that the government of Israel to defeat the PLO instead of appease the PLO would also have an effect.

Yet some people in the Yesha Council may actually believe that if Rabbis ask their students and followers in the IDF to not participate in the removal of residents will help stop the process.

It would seem that some people in the Yesha Council not know that Rabbis of Israel do not control the minds and hearts of all of the people of Israel?.

Indeed, would it not be logical for the IDF would be to form a special "volunteer unit" of IDF troops who emanate from Bedouin, Druze, and non-Jewish Ukranian background, who would be given the responsibility of forcible removal of Jews.

In other words, that the Yesha Council may have adapted a strategy that acts as the greatest asset to Ariel Sharon.

Indeed, every time the Yesha Council uses the word "disengagement", they serve the purpose of PM Sharon, who wants most people to assume that this is some kind of an "disengagement" from Gaza, whereas ten clauses of his plan serve to empower the PLO, whose purpose continues to be the annihilation of the state and people of Israel, albeit in stages. Good Morning, Sudetenland.

The issues that should be brought to the attention of the members of the Knesset concern every clause of the Sharon Plan that threatens the lives of all of the people of Israel.

View the Sharon Plan and side comments.
An analysis of the Sharon Plan.
To understand how Sharon plans to arm the PLO.
Who stands to profit from the Sharon Plan.
Does the Sharon Plan represent a violation of human rights?

If the discussions about the Sharon Plan are left to sentiments for the people and sand of Katif, the subject is doomed.

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